Austen-esque author Amanda Grange kicks off our guests bloggers during ‘Go Gothic with Northanger Abbey’ event as she joins us today to chat about a very important topic; possibly the most important topic to many – Henry Tilney – who is the protagonist of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey and the hero of her next novel Henry Tilney’s Diary. This highly anticipated novel will complete her Austen hero’s series that started with Mr. Darcy’s Diary in 2005, unless she changes her mind and gives Sense and Sensibility‘s co-hero Edward Ferrars his due. Hint ;) Hint ;)
Amanda Grange on Henry Tilney’s Diary
I’m very pleased to be invited to Austenprose during the Go Gothic with Northanger Abbey event because at the moment Northanger Abbey is much in my mind. I’m writing Henry Tilney’s Diary which is, of course, a retelling of Northanger Abbey from Henry’s point of view. Those people who have read my other diaries – Mr Darcy’s Diary, Mr Knightley’s Diary, Captain Wentworth’s Diary, Edmund Bertram’s Diary, Colonel Brandon’s Diary – will know that I like to stick close to the original novels but present them from a new viewpoint, filling out the back stories and adding what I hope are new insights along the way.
I knew before I started it that Henry Tilney’s Diary would be the most complex diary to write because Northanger Abbey is, arguably, Austen’s most complex novel. Not only does it have Austen’s hallmarks of social satire, keen observation, brilliant characterisation, etc, it also has her wittiest hero, and on top of that it parodies the Gothic novel. I knew I would have to try and capture all these element in the diary.
Those who have been following my progress on Historical Romance UK will know that I decided to use some passages from The Mysteries of Udolpho in the diary because I wanted to give modern readers a taste of the kind of Gothic novels that were popular in Austen’s day. Some readers are already familiar with Udolpho, of course – including readers of Austenprose! – but others have never read it, and I didn’t want them to miss out on the unique flavour of the eighteenth and nineteenth century Gothics.
Having decided to include some passages from Udolpho, I then had to come up with a way of working it into the diary. The solution to this problem came in Chapter 14 of Northanger Abbey:
“The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid. I have read all Mrs. Radcliffe’s works, and most of them with great pleasure. The Mysteries of Udolpho, when I had once begun it, I could not lay down again; I remember finishing it in two days – my hair standing on end the whole time.” (said Henry)
“Yes,” added Miss Tilney, “and I remember that you undertook to read it aloud to me, and that when I was called away for only five minutes to answer a note, instead of waiting for me, you took the volume into the Hermitage Walk, and I was obliged to stay till you had finished it.”
I knew at once that I would include this incident in the diary. It is such a revealing incident that I would probably have included it anyway, because it shows Henry at his most human and charming whilst also showing his good relationship with Eleanor. But it lends itself perfectly to my desire to include extracts from Udolpho.
I decided that I would then make the incident work even harder for its place in the diary, because I would use it, not only to show Henry and Eleanor’s characters, their good relationship, and the prose of Mrs Radcliffe, I would also use it as a bonding experience with Eleanor’s suitor.
Eleanor’s suitor is one of the elements of the backstory I am going to flesh out. He isn’t mentioned until the end of the book, but in fact she has known him for a long time. As she loves Gothic novels I thought it likely that he would love them as well. My picture of him was hazy at first and I had to think more carefully about the things I knew so that I could develop him as a real person. He had no money – so where could Eleanor have met him? I decided she would meet him at the Abbey, because it’s such an integral part of the book. But what would he be doing there?
There are a lot of ways I could have done it, but this is what happened when I started to write:
It was late. My father was holding forth in the drawing-room; Frederick’s friends were carousing in the billiard room; and so Eleanor and I took refuge in the library. We had just begun to talk when there was an embarrassed cough and Mr Thomas Stannyard stepped out from behind one of the bookcases.
It was an awkward moment. He had evidently been in the library when we arrived and he had unwittingly overheard our conversation. But instead of laughing and blustering and making some ribald remark, as befitted one of Frederick’s friends, he blushed and fingered his collar and muttered his apologies, adding that he had come into the library to look for a book.
This so astounded Eleanor and I that we looked at each other and then turned our eyes back towards him to discover that he was indeed holding a book.
‘The antics in the billiard-room are not to your taste?’ hazarded my sister.
‘No, I am afraid not,’ he said apologetically.
‘What book have you found?’ I asked.
He looked embarrassed and muttered something under his breath.
‘The Mysteries of Udolpho!’ exclaimed Eleanor.
‘I have a partiality for Gothic novels,’ he admitted shamefacedly.
‘But this is capital,’ I said. ‘My sister and I like nothing better. Which ones have you read?’
‘Castle of Wolfenbach, Clermont, Mysterious Warnings, and Necromancer of the Black Forest,’ he said, then added, ‘I must not intrude any longer.’
‘It is no intrusion,’ I assured him.
‘Will you not join us?’ asked Eleanor.
‘If you are sure . . . ‘ he said.
‘We are. Are we not, Henry?’
He took a seat.
‘Forgive me for saying so, but you do not seem like one of my brother’s friends,’ said Eleanor.
‘I . . . uh . . . think it would be more accurate to say that . . . well, to put it frankly . . . that is to say . . . he owes me money.’
This is just a rough draft. It might easily change between now and publication, but this is how the characters are developing at the moment. This will then lead into some scenes where the three of them read a Gothic novel together. As there is no mention of Eleanor’s suitor when Henry talks about reading Udolpho in Chapter 14, I will probably have them read one of the other novels. I dare say they will be out walking but then have to hurry inside because of a thunderstorm. With the thunder rolling and the lightning flashing outside, they will read some of the more outrageous passages from one or other of the ‘horrid novels,’ replete with dungeons, chains and strange moaning.
I might, too, have Henry come upon Catherine and Eleanor reading a horrid novel, so that I can include extracts from yet another ‘horrid novel’, but as I haven’t got to the later part of the diary, and I am at the moment writing the bits that occur before Northanger Abbey begins, that is a decision I won’t take until much later in the year.
I hope fans of Northanger Abbey will enjoy Henry Tilney’s Diary!
Thanks Amanda for giving us a sneak peek at your next novel Henry Tilney’s Diary which will hopefully be in book stores by late 2009. I am looking forward to the entrance of da man himself, Henry Tilney, and all the Gothic trappings replete with dungeons, chains and strange moaning!